Deception (Conquest: A Dystopian GameLit Saga Book 2) – Chapter Eleven: Lost Zone

I’ve got to get away, just keep running, don’t look back. There’s nothing back there but evil. Survive like always.

WARNING!
You have entered the Lost Zone. Your map has been disabled, and your chances for survival have greatly decreased. Many players have perished at the hand of unspeakable creatures in these woods. Proceed with caution!

She didn’t stop to see what happened behind, instead choosing to run off into the forests like a chicken with its head cut off, her only purpose being to escape the predatory monster on the hunt. The Leviathan was as formidable a monster as she had ever encountered, and she had no intention of letting it have her soul. It didn’t matter what powers it promised her.

But she couldn’t help but wonder. Would those powers have given her an advantage? She had not liked the way Blondie had taken away her spoils. The woman wasn’t even an official guild leader! She had assumed the role for herself when their old one went missing, whoever he was. Supposedly due to a technical problem or girlfriend problem – whichever – but she couldn’t help but wonder if Blondie had something to do with it. She couldn’t bring herself to trust a bully like her.

Brittany was also really upset over losing all of her weapons and being left with nothing despite all that hard work she had done to level up. The game’s glitch, or RL like the guy back there theorized, was proving to be a pain in the butt, something she wished would be rectified soon enough. At least she hoped that the glitch where none of the players could log out could be sorted. She had been here for a little more than twenty-four hours now, and she was beginning to feel tired and pissed. But she couldn’t afford to stop right now.

No way!

The Leviathan was probably trailing her.

There was no choice other than to run at whatever speed her legs could muster. Run forward, dashing between the trees, deep into the Lost Zone, which everyone knew to be forbidden.

Likely as ever, she was trapped between a hammer and an anvil. Whatever monsters she might face she deemed to be a lesser evil than the dark broth of fume and smoke that made up the far more dangerous Leviathan creature. She had little inkling of what direction she was running. She was wading deep inside the forests, the thick trees trying their best to hem her in.

Not afraid of the darkness, she continued on, ever so aware of the many eyes that sprouted around her. A queasy feeling consumed her. The monsters had registered her presence, yet she dared not return the way she came. The Leviathan scared her even more than the Lost Zone and every horror that swathe of trees might contain. The canopies grew thicker above, the ground hard with roots teeming below. She even tripped over a couple of them, her lips moving in a curse every time.

Brittany kept running, running towards the danger she felt was lurking behind every tree her body brushed up against, but she didn’t care. In her mind, fear had gripped her cortex so tightly that her throat threatened to run away with her mind, leaving her without air and without thought.

Get yourself together, Brittany!

But the fear made her run even farther, waves of dread crashing against every bone. Her entire body ached as a result, weary already by the sprint. Part of her wanted to rest under the boughs of the dark trees and gather her strength, but knew it could be detrimental if she stopped.
She wondered what had happened to Brad and Blondie. Had they managed to survive? Did they escape? Had they drawn the Leviathan in pursuit? Or had that fuming monster singled her out, thinking she was easy prey?

Just yesterday she had been a player with an impressive skillset. Known as The Iron Vixen, she had gained a reputation as a warrior to be respected and feared.

A game reset, and here she landed deep inside one of the many Lost Zone forests where she would never have returned to – not after she barely made it out alive from the Basilisk attack last time. Here she was again, helpless and with little weapons – not to mention the fact that her skill levels had all gone haywire. Although she lost her Class as a Warrior, with the fear currently coursing through her veins and the terror that clutched her heart she didn’t feel that she deserve to be called one now anyway.

But then an old adage came to her mind: even the bravest of warriors can feel an ounce of fear because it is that fear which keeps you alive. Fear meant the yearning for survival, and that meant doing whatever needed to be done to stay alive.

Brittany tripped on one of the protruding roots and collapsed hard onto the ground, the loose .308 caliber round that she had been clutching in her fist fell somewhere into the thick canopy of undergrowth.

[-10 Damage]

She dug around frantically for the stray bullet, being very much aware that every last round counted considering that aside from the hunting knife, this rifle was her only remaining gun with available ammunition. She also still had the Saiga slung on her back, holding on to the hope that she might find a cache of 12-gauge shells somewhere.

Brittany cursed to herself. The stray bullet was nowhere to be found. She quickly counted 131 remaining .308 caliber rounds on the heavy sashes she had been carrying, although this didn’t make her feel much better. The fact that she had to stop and reload between each shot could determine her ultimate fate.

Her mind was on overdrive even as she raised herself up and rested momentarily against the rough bark of a nearby tree. She quickly pulled out one of the rounds and reloaded the rifle just in case she would need it soon. As she listened to the gusts of wind, she felt that everything was uncanny in this forest – especially the presence of the wind that shouldn’t have been there in the first place. The air also felt musty, and it couldn’t mask the stench that wafted from nearby.

The foul, stinking odor of rotten corpses that likely belonged to the poor souls who had the misfortune to wander in here. Eaten by monsters, no doubt – this was something that might be in her fate too if she was not careful.

Silence lingered in the air, aside from the sound of her own breathing. She tried to take longer, slow, deep breaths to calm herself. But monsters had sharp ears. They heard everything… even the slight trickle of heartbeat. It was surprising she had not been attacked yet. Not that she could find the strength within her to defeat them if they did!
Maybe they sensed the danger of the Leviathan nearby, keeping them at bay.

For which she momentarily felt grateful, but knew innately that the dark fuming monster was not her friend. She had been marked: it wanted her soul, and rumor had it that the creature always got what it wanted. Every time.

Her chest heaved as she took in a few more deep breaths. Her eyes roved about scouting for any signs of danger closing in on her before rising up to her feet.

Her strength gathered, she began to crisscross her way through the Lost Zone, hoping to find a way that would bring her to the skirts of the forest. She yearned to see the open plains and the thick walls of overgrown ruins. All she could see now was an endless land of trees with no finish line in sight.

She did not have a compass in her inventory, not that it would likely be allowed to function inside the Lost Zone anyway. Neither could she look up into the sky and discern the direction she ought to go. When she had first entered the Lost Zone, she ran in what she guessed was the southern direction. Most likely she needed to turn to the right as that would surely lead her eastward? If she remembered anything from the maps – shame that had to go offline as well – the great city of Sariel lay to the east of the Lost Zone. Or was it the ruins of Sariel? She couldn’t remember.

Taking another deep breath, she turned right and hopefully eastward. The moment she did, her ears pricked at the sound of harsh growls. And then she heard the distinct sound of footfalls. Four… eight… twelve… sixteen… maybe twenty.

A string of expletives left her mouth as she pulled out the hunting knife, ready to give whatever these monsters were a fight for their lives.

Threat Detected
A pack of Saber Wolves are approaching. Do you wish to proceed?
Yes | No

What kind of stupid prompt is that?

Brittany hit ‘No’, hoping it might whisk her away to a safer location.

ERROR!
Transport Portals are offline. Please try again later.

Of course. Why did I even bother?

If only Brad had kept his mouth shut! He believed that if a player died here, they died in RL as well. If she died now at the hands of these monsters, she would never re-spawn. That would be the end. Not only of her avatar, but real life as well.

This sucks. Seriously sucks!

Yet she was determined to not let such thoughts linger in her mind. She mustered every ounce of strength in her and got ready for a fight. But with her limited weaponry, she’d fare much better from a distance. Thinking quickly, she stopped running and scrambled up into a nearby tree.

She looked through the scope in their general direction as the pack’s approach seemed wary, confirming to her that they hadn’t seen her climb up a tree. One of them stepped into her sight. She could clearly make out its wet nozzle with saliva dripping from its mouth.

Brittany took careful aim and fired.

HeadShot: Easy
Instant Kill
+40 XP

The wolf collapsed to the ground, however the sound of the gunshot gave away her position. Snarling and howling, the beasts charged toward her with gnashing teeth bared. She pulled out another round from the sash and reloaded. Taking aim, she fired at another wolf creature barreling down on her but she missed.

Cursing to herself, she reloaded again just as the pack surrounded the tree, jumping higher than she had anticipated with their massive bodies. She fired again at the closest wolf.

HeadShot: Easy
Instant Kill
+40 XP

But while she was distracted, another leapt high enough that its claws managed to rip open the skin on her left leg, drawing scarlet blood. But despite its attempt to yank her free from the tree, she held fast.

[-50 Damage]

She winced in pain but refused to let it overwhelm her mind as she reloaded another and fired.

HeadShot: Easy
Instant Kill
+40 XP

Another wolf jumped and struck just then, latching its claws into the branch and tore Brittany out of the tree with a loud snap.

Thinking quickly, she scrambled to her feet and swung the broken branch at her assailants and clubbed one the wolves with a hard thwack. The wolf crumpled to the ground and howled in pain, a bloody gash on the side of its head.

[-200 HP]

Two more lunged at her.

She jumped to the right and drove the sharp edge of the branch into one wolf’s forehead.

Bludgeon: Medium
Instant Kill
+50 XP

Skill Unlocked: Bludgeon
Delivers an Instant Kill when you swing a large brunt object at your opponent. Chances of Instant Kill are 35%. Greater chances for Instant Kill increase with higher levels. Requirements: Level > 7, Strength > 9, Agility > 4, Stamina > 5

The second wolf was already on top of her. She quickly jammed the blade of her hunting knife through the roof of the wolf’s mouth.

HeadStab: Difficult
Instant Kill
[+60 XP]

The body collapsed on top of her, its entire weight crushing her body. Monster blood fountained out of wound, drenching her in a deep red.

In all that happened, she lost sight of the branch.
She was trapped beneath the dead wolf, the blood now spurting out onto her face. She tried to shove the corpse off, but the monster wolf was too heavy to even move up an inch.

As if the wolf corpse wasn’t enough, she could sense the other remaining members of the pack slowly approach. She was worried about the ones coming from the back. She tried to yanking the knife out, but the blade was embedded in the wolf’s skull.

She breathed deep to drown the simmering tension that created tight knots in her stomach.
The deep breath was barely enough to contain the tension. It did not prepare her for the extra ton of weight suddenly thrust on her. She groaned louder and saw that another wolf had jumped onto its fallen brother, growling and snarling. She wanted to scream just then, feeling her heart pound faster against her chest.

No, no, I won’t die. Not just yet.

Screaming at the top of her voice, she yanked out the knife with all of her remaining strength and threw it strong and true.

HeadStab: Medium
Instant Kill
[+50 XP]

LEVEL UP!
+1 Strength

The wolf collapsed to the side. She exhaled deep, feeling relieved at the extra weight being lifted off her. With her HP now fully replenished, her wounds automatically healed, and with the added Strength Attribute she pushed up against the wolf corpse. It moved about an inch, just enough to help her get her legs unwedged so that she could shimmy out of her predicament. The moment she freed herself from the corpse, she launched over to the other fallen wolf and retrieved her embedded knife out of its eye socket.

She turned to faced two more opponents, each snarling but keeping back at a wary pace. To them she was an easy target, but she wouldn’t go down without a fight. Adrenaline rushing through her, she decided to retake her offensive stance. She took advantage of the opportunity to quickly reload another .308 caliber round, raised the Remington and fired without a moment’s hesitation.

HeadShot: Easy
Instant Kill
+50 XP

She dropped the gun and rushed forward with the hunting knife, throwing her full force into the blade as she jammed it into the wolf’s ear as it tried to turn and flee.

HeadStab: Difficult
Instant Kill
[+70 XP]

A naughty smile made her lips curl.

Yanking the knife out and jumping over the fallen wolf, she and made her way towards the next one and slashed at its stomach. The knife cut through its furry brown skin, spilling the contents inside on the ground.

GutSlash: Difficult
Instant Kill
[+70 XP]

Skill Unlocked: GutSlash
Delivers an Instant Kill when you gut an opponent. Chances of Instant Kill are 35%. Greater chances for Instant Kill increase with higher levels. Requirements: Level > 7, Strength > 9, Agility > 4, Stamina > 5

Brittany retrieved her Remington and quickly loaded another round. There were four other monstrous wolves, one of them bigger than all of the other ones she had already dealt with.

Threat Detected: Level 15 Alpha Saber Wolf
HP| 1,500/1,500
Strengths: Long, saber tooth fangs, bone-crushing jaws, an can weigh up to 600 pounds. Will hunt down and tear apart their unfortunate victims.
Weaknesses: [LOCKED]

She sighed. She was already feeling tired from the battle. Though doubting she could last much longer, she moved forward towards the four wolves now huddled close together.

“Let me pass!” she spat at them.

The four didn’t budge.

Taking quick aim, she fired at the biggest of the three, whom she suspected was the Alpha Leader.

[-300 HP]

That didn’t work!

An almost imperceptible trail of smoke rose from the small hole in the wolf’s forehead. How the HeadShot hadn’t killed him, she had no idea. But there was clearly a bullet embedded in the beast’s brain. It howled in extreme pain, and rolled in the underbrush yelping like a wounded puppy. The other three snarled and pounced in rage.

Yelling, she jumped ahead to attack them, waving her knife in the air as she would a sword. One slash, a second slash, a third stab, Brittany came to a halt near a tree.

GutSlash: Difficult
Instant Kill
[+70 XP]

ChestSlash: Difficult
Instant Kill
[+70 XP]

HeadStab: Difficult
Instant Kill
[+70 XP]

Looking around, she heaved at the sight of all the dead wolves, and approached the whimpering Alpha Leader. Without mercy, she embedded the blade if her hunting knife into it’s forehead.

HeadStab: Difficult
Instant Kill
[+70 XP]

Congratulations!

Congratulations!
You have subdued a Level 15 opponent. In addition to your gained XP, for your bravery and prowess you will be rewarded with the following:
+1 Agility
+1 Intelligence
+1 Willpower

She had no intention of staying a moment here any longer. The Lost Zone certainly had more than one pack of wolves and many other unnamed monsters. And that loathsome creature that called itself the Leviathan likely wasn’t far away, lured in by the fetid odor of death.

Taking another deep breath, she made her way eastward. She ran as swiftly as her legs could allow, ignoring the painful call of her bones. She was eager to get out of the Lost Zone from which few players ever came out alive.

But I will. This isn’t my first rodeo.

She reminded herself about how she had succeeded in-game challenges and quests that were designed in such a way that ninety-nine percent of the players would fail. She had become a one percenter in Conquest as the unstoppable Iron Vixen.

Well… at least until the game reset, and all her victories and high accolades had been stripped away from her. Now, she didn’t even have a Warrior class. She was a Ballistics Expert, and that was a crap designation after everything that happened. She believed her skills to supersede that of this base level.

Sheathing the hunting knife, she carried forward, hoping she would soon find the edge this dark forest. But the trees never gave way, neither did an open field appear. The way ahead looked like an endless swathe, but she held on to hope.

Hope.

Hope was the only way she could get through this abominable forest. And she was going to stick on to it like a symbiotic parasite does to a living host.
Behind her, a loud screech sounded.

I know that sound!

The Leviathan. It had finally reached the site of battle. It must have followed the reek of death, and it would reach her within a few minutes. Despite running, she had not gotten far from its presence.

How could Sam just let himself get taken by that… that… thing?

Through the darkness, there was seemingly nowhere to turn. The sounds came from everywhere and nowhere, throwing off her perception at an alarming rate.

I can’t keep track of where I’m going, but I at least I’m getting far away from there!

Brittany kept running, backtracking and running different directions. She knew that even through her ignorance, the Leviathan’s power had to be somewhere.

As she kept up her pace, she felt that familiar ringing in her ears again. “You shall not have strength to run from me forever! I hath claimed thy friend Sam, and I shall come for thee no matter where thou art!”

As if she were taking an ice-cold shower, her body tensed. She went rigid for a moment before her brain caught up and she started in motion again.

Focus, Brittany! Focus! This thing is coming for you, but it let itself slip. It doesn’t know where you are! It’s not omniscient!

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